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Choose Cherries: Cherry chocolate chip protein bites

2014 July 30
by Emily Hill

Disclosure: The following post is sponsored by FitFluential LLC on behalf of the Cherry Marketing Institute. All thoughts, opinions and recipes featuring tart cherries are 100 percent honest and all mine.

I admit it. I’d never heard of tart cherries or tart cherry juice before participating in the 7-Day Tart Cherry Juice Challenge. I thought cherries were cherries. Boy, was I wrong. But before I go into the goodness that is tart cherries, I simply must share the recipe for my new favorite protein bites: cherry chocolate chip protein bites. Who knew adding some coarsely chopped tart cherries to my previous recipe for peanut butter oatmeal protein bites would make these babies even better?

Cherry chocolate chip protein bites

I wasn’t sure if the tart cherries would work with chocolate chips, at least for this girl who isn’t a fan of mixing fruit and chocolate. But the hint of tart cherry was the perfect compliment to the peanut butter and chocolate. These may be even more addictive than the last batch!

Cherry chocolate chip protein bites

You’ll find the recipe for these cherry chocolate chip protein bites at the end of the post because now I want to dive into the awesomeness found in tart cherries and their liquid counterpart, tart cherry juice.

I was super intrigued by research suggesting tart cherry juice may help ease muscle pain associated with intense exercise. I had recently added some treadmill work into my training—which already includes an intense spin class—and my knees and hips were beginning to talk back. Wanting an alternative to ibuprofen, I was all over the 7-day challenge. I drank 8 ounces of tart cherry juice twice a day for 7 days. According to the research, the result should have been less inflammation and muscle soreness post workout.

Did it work?

Believe it or not, YES! Usually HIIT workouts on the treadmill leave me with sore hips and slightly achy knees. But a few days into the challenge and the aches and pains were hardly noticeable. NO LIE.

Being the skeptic I am, I wondered if I it really did help or if my body was adjusting to the workouts, so after those seven days I decided to go off the tart cherry juice for a full week. Want to know what happened? I’d love to tell you but you’ll have to wait for the next installment in this two-part series.

The next installment includes a recipe for a super delicious tropical tart cherry smoothie. Don’t miss it!

In the meantime, you should try the 7-Day Tart Cherry Juice Challenge. I have seen tart cherry juice at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s but you should be able to find it in your local grocery store.

Tart Cherries 7-Day Challenge

In between infusions of tart cherry juice, pop a few of these cherry chocolate chip protein bites. Your body will thank you.

Cherry Chocolate Chip Protein Bites
Recipe type: Snack
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
Super easy and healthy snack packed with protein. The chopped tart cherries are the perfect compliment to the semi-sweet chocolate chips.
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • ½ cup all-natural peanut butter
  • ½ cup ground flaxseed
  • ¼ to ½ cup coarsely chopped tart cherries
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl until thoroughly mixed.
  2. Let chill in the refrigerator for half an hour.
  3. Once chilled, roll into balls of whatever size you would like. (I used the smallest scoop from Pampered Chef.)
  4. Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.

To learn more about tart cherries and the benefits of tart cherry juice, visit You can find more tart cherry goodness on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube.

ps post script

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Don’t forget to sign up for free is this REALLY my life? updates via RSS or email so you don’t miss a single awesome post.

Salted caramel pecan ice cream

2014 July 29
by Emily Hill

A little background about this salted caramel pecan ice cream recipe (quote possibly the most amazing salted caramel pecan ice cream you’ll ever taste)…

Salted caramel pecan ice cream with caramel swirl

A couple weeks ago I had the awesome opportunity to participate in the Books Alive summer reading series over on Paging Supermom. Our book of choice? Should I Share My Ice Cream? from Mo Willems, one of our most favorite authors.

Paging Supermom Books Alive Summer Reading Series

To read more about why I chose to feature an Elephant & Piggie book, you’ll have to check out my guest post on Paging Supermom.

As for the ice cream, it was a true labor of love. I had no idea what a labor of love it would be as I’d never made a custard-based ice cream before, one that included a from-scratch salted caramel flavor and from-scratch caramel swirl.*

* You can’t see the caramel swirl in the first photo because I made the mistake of adding it to the ice cream machine before it started.

I learned one important lesson during the process of creating this salted caramel pecan ice cream (note the asterisk above):

Adding the caramel swirl before you add the ice cream to the machine is SO not the way to do it. Make sure you add the caramel swirl after it’s done.

You’ll layer it as you place the finished ice cream into an airtight container for final hardening in the freezer. Oh, and the caramel swirl is totally optional. If you skip it—or choose to use it as an ice cream topping like I did in the photo below—the salted caramel pecan ice cream will be just as yummy…and you’ll have fewer dishes to clean.

Salted caramel pecan ice cream

Printable recipe for salted caramel pecan ice cream below.

Salted Caramel Pecan Ice Cream
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Ice Cream
Serves: 8
Quite possibly the best salted caramel pecan ice cream you'll ever taste. The caramel swirl is optional. If you do choose to include it, make sure you layer it *after* the ice cream has been through the ice cream machine. (See directions in recipe.)
Caramel Swirl
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup light corn syrup
  • ¼ cup water
  • 7 T heavy whipping cream
  • ½ tsp vanilla
Ice Cream
  • 1¼ cups sugar, divided
  • 2¼ cups heavy whipping cream, divided
  • ½ tsp coarse sea salt
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 T butter
  • ⅓ cup chopped pecans
Caramel Swirl
  1. Combine sugar, corn syrup, water and a pinch of salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Continue to boil but don’t stir! Gently swirl pan until mixture turns a deep golden caramel. Remove from heat and carefully add cream and vanilla. Mixture will get angry and vigorously simmer; caramel will harden. Don’t worry!
  3. Return to medium heat and simmer, stirring until caramel is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  4. Note: You can make the caramel swirl up to 1 week ahead. Cover and keep in refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before using. If caramel swirl is too thick to drizzle, warm slightly in the microwave.
Ice Cream
  1. Heat 1 cup sugar in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring with a fork or whisk to heat sugar evenly. Once it starts to melt, stir occasionally so sugar melts evenly. Be patient! This can take a while. Allow it to melt completely until it turns a dark amber.
  2. Carefully add 1¼ cups cream. Again, mixture will get angry and sugar will harden but no worries. Continue to cook, stirring until caramel has completely dissolved. Transfer to a bowl; add salt and vanilla. Cool to room temperature.
  3. Bring milk, remaining 1 cup cream and remaining ¼ cup sugar just to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring occasionally.
  4. Lightly whisk eggs in a medium bowl, then add half of hot milk mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly and furiously. You don’t want those eggs to scramble! Pour egg-milk mixture back into saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or spatula until custard coats back of spoon and registers 170°F. Do NOT let boil!
  5. Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, then stir in cooled caramel. Chill custard, covered, until cold, at least 3 hours and up to 2 days. Stir once every hour for the first 3 hours or so.
  6. Pour custard into ice cream maker and begin freezing. While ice cream is freezing, melt 1 T unsalted butter in a medium skillet. Add pecans and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until lightly browned and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Cool to room temperature; add to ice cream maker five minutes before ice cream is done.
  7. Transfer ⅓ of the ice cream to a 2-quart airtight container. Drizzle ⅓ caramel swirl over it. Repeat with remaining ice cream and caramel swirl. Freeze ice cream until hard, at least 8 hours and up to 1 week.

If you’re an ice cream fan (and who isn’t?) you’re going to want to give these frozen treats a try…

Grasshopper pie with Oreo crust

Grasshopper pie

Chocolate peanut butter ice cream pie with Oreo cookie crust

Chocolate peanut butter ice cream pie

ps post script

Feel free to “like” is this REALLY my life? on Facebook. It won’t always earn you an extra entry in a giveaway but it will give you warm fuzzies.

Don’t forget to sign up for free is this REALLY my life? updates via RSS or email so you don’t miss a single awesome post.

Almond cake recipe

2014 July 24
by Emily Hill

You are going to die when you see how unbelievably easy this almond cake recipe is. (Thank you, Dawn!) You can whip up this baby in just a few minutes and before you know it, you’ll have the most delightful almond cake to share with friends and family. Or just family. Or just you.

An 8×8-inch pan is a single serving, right?!?

Almond cake

Don’t let the short list of ingredients fool you. This is one noteworthy cake, especially if you’re a fan of almond-flavored desserts.

If you’re not, we can still be friends because that means I don’t have to share my bear claw.

Almond cake

Printable almond cake recipe below.

Almond Cake
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
Only six ingredients and super easy to make. You'll love this almond cake recipe!
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup flour
  • 1 to 1½ T almond extract
  • Slivered almonds
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8x8-inch square pan or 8-inch pie pan.
  2. Cream eggs and butter. Add sugar, flour and almond extract. Pour into pan.
  3. Sprinkle with slivered almonds and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely before serving.

ps post script

Feel free to “like” is this REALLY my life? on Facebook. It won’t always earn you an extra entry in a giveaway but it will give you warm fuzzies.

Don’t forget to sign up for free is this REALLY my life? updates via RSS or email so you don’t miss a single awesome post.

20 food blogs you should follow. For reals.

2014 July 22
by Emily Hill

Though my site is considered a “lifestyle” blog (you can read my thoughts on that here), it’s definitely heavy on the recipes. What can I say? I like to make—and eat—good food. I’m told a lot of people feel the same way. Of course my recipe-heavy lifestyle blog is a very small sprinkle on a very large cupcake.


The Interweb is full of many amazing food blogs out there, my favorite ones to follow are those that feature recipes I’ll really and truly make (and not just pin) or those owned by women I’ve met in real life who have since become friends. I feel like those are pretty good criteria, and if they are heavy on desserts or pasta, even better.

Here is a compilation—in no particular order—of 20 food blogs you should follow. I hope you’ll discover some new favorites because as far as I’m concerned, you can never have too many recipes in your virtual recipe box.

20 food blogs you should follow

20 Food Blogs You Should Follow*
* No, really. You totally should.

  1. Vintage Mixer – Becky is simply the cutest and a huge supporter of buying local. I love her seasonal recipes.
  2. Taste and Tell — Our family adores Deborah’s gourmet hot dogs and she’s provided enough recipes for #TacoTuesday to keep us happy for months.
  3. Oh Sweet Basil — Carrian is one of the first food bloggers I met in real life. I adore her and her recipes.
  4. Completely Delicious — Enough said. Every recipe on her site looks absolutely and completely delicious.
  5. Barbara Bakes – Barbara is another one of my food blogging friends. She bakes the yummiest desserts around.
  6. Damn Delicious — The name alone makes me smile and her recipes are just that.
  7. Pinch of Yum — This site, like a few others on the list, has some of the most beautiful food photography.
  8. Sweet Treats & More — Kristy is sweeter than the desserts she posts on her site (if that’s possible). Great family-friendly recipes.
  9. White on Rice Couple — I fell in love with Todd and Diane after attending one of their food photography workshops. An amazing couple with stunning photography and recipes.
  10. A Southern Fairytale – I don’t get enough of Rachel and her southern hospitality. She’s one of my faves.
  11. Minimalist Baker — Truly minimalist recipes that look and sound and taste delicious.
  12. Cafe Johnsonia — Lindsey makes some of the freshest recipes around featuring local products and lots of good-for-you recipes.
  13. Pressure Cooking Today — a new site by Barbara that has me jonesing for a pressure cooker. I don’t have one yet but still pin about every recipe.
  14. I Wash…You Dry — Shawn makes some of the most mouthwatering appetizers I’ve seen. I wish she were my next-door neighbor.
  15. No Diets Allowed — Kami’s smoothies look too decadent to be healthy but they are. Mmm…
  16. Averie Cooks — When Averie’s Instagram photos come through my feed, I nearly lick the screen. They are THAT good.
  17. Sally’s Baking Addiction — Another favorite site for desserts and all things sweet and delicious.
  18. Two Peas & Their Pod — I’ve known Maria for a few years and she posts some of the most amazing recipes. (Her cookies are my favorite!)
  19. Budget Gourmet Mom — Krista is as sweet and they come. I love her blog because you’ll find life stories mixed in with recipes the entire family will love.
  20. FoodieCrush — Heidi’s site is my go-to reference for amazing food photography and nspiration for new recipes. Her FoodieCrush magazine is a total win and her posts are always worth reading.

Just know this list isn’t complete. I’m going to have to do a part two because there are at least a handful of other food blogs you need to follow…blogs like Lemon Tree Dwelling, Cooking with Ruthie and Simple Plate.

Before I end this post, I want to say thank you to my wonderful ITRML readers and recipe triers. When one of our family favorites becomes one of yours, it makes my heart super happy.

An extra special thanks to Lindsey who’s made my decadent chocolate cake a bazillion times and to Evonne who has tried more of my recipes than I can count.


ps post script

Feel free to “like” is this REALLY my life? on Facebook. It won’t always earn you an extra entry in a giveaway but it will give you warm fuzzies.

Don’t forget to sign up for free is this REALLY my life? updates via RSS or email so you don’t miss a single awesome post.

The Top 50 Swim Cities — is yours on the list?

2014 July 21
by Emily Hill

Once I caught wind of The Top 50 Swim Cities over on the USA Swimming site, I knew I had to check the list. And what do you know? Salt Lake City is on it slipping in at number 50.

Utah County is number 34 but we’ll pretend we didn’t see that.

Top 50 Swim Cities by USA Swimming and Speedo

With an avid swimmer in the family, The Top 50 Swim Cities (presented by Speedo) makes for an interesting read. My old stomping grounds in the San Jose area came in at number 2. This area claims the most USA Swimming members per 1,000 people and “the largest multicultural make-up of any region.” Top on the list? Ann Arbor, Michigan. Apparently a history rich in swimming has produced more than 60 Olympians. No wonder it’s ranked first in the U.S.

We may not live in Ann Arbor or the Bay Area, but we may still have an Olympian in the family. And if not an Olympian, definitely a college scholarship hopeful. She has set quite a few of her school’s swimming records.

High School Swim Records

I may not have been involved with USA Swimming when I was in high school but I did swim a mean butterfly and IM. I’d like to think Madison got her fish-like swimming skills from her mom.

Swim finals

She also got my sense of humor, love of reading and long legs, but you’ll have to take my word for it on those.

To check out the full article and see if your city made the cut, you can read the full feature on the USA Swimming website.

ps post script

Feel free to “like” is this REALLY my life? on Facebook. It won’t always earn you an extra entry in a giveaway but it will give you warm fuzzies.

Don’t forget to sign up for free is this REALLY my life? updates via RSS or email so you don’t miss a single awesome post.

Love Jason Mraz, love “Love Someone” & love ‘YES!’

2014 July 18
by Emily Hill

Disclosure: This post is part of a sponsored campaign for Jason Mraz and #SPREADYES. All thoughts, opinions and love of Jason Mraz are 100 percent honest and all mine. If I weren’t happily married, I’d wish he were too.

Too many loves? I doubt it. At least not if you’re a Jason Mraz fan and you heard his latest single “Love Someone” from YES! and then promptly downloaded the entire album from iTunes. Love the single, love the album, love the man. How can you not love an artist who makes casual Friday look so good…

Jason Mraz Instagram

Wait. Where was I? Oh yeah, Jason’s new album YES!.

Jason Mraz YES!

Have you heard “Love Someone” yet? It’s about as true Jason Mraz as it comes.


You just fell in love with Jason Mraz all over again, right?

While that single may be the most popular from his new record, I’m kinda falling in love with “Hello, You Beautiful Thing” (track 3) and “3 Things” (track 10). Fortunately for you and me and the rest of the world, Jason is releasing a new video daily featuring tracks from YES!. That means I can share “Hello, You Beautiful Thing” with you today.

Though you can listen to the “3 Things” official audio, you’ll have to check the official Jason Mraz YouTube channel daily to catch the “3 Things” official video.

But wait, there’s more to love! To help spread word about the release of his new album YES!, Jason Mraz is hosting his #SPREADYES contest with some pretty phenomenal prizes. We’re talking a flyaway to a Mraz show of your choice for you and a friend plus swag like signed copies of YES! and Mraz merchandise.


It’s super easy to participate. You can go all out (e.g., skydive with a parachute that sports the #SPREADYES hashtag) or go for quantity over quality (e.g., tweet about YES! and #SPREADYES until your fingers are numb). Either way, you’ll have a better chance of winning than if you do nothing at all.

For more details on how you can #SPREADYES and possibly score with Jason Mraz*, visit

* By “score” I mean become one of his most favorite fans ever, not the other kind of “score.” Of course, who knows what shenanigans might occur on a flyaway…

To (virtually) pick up your copy of YES!, visit your local iTunes store. (See how clever I am?)


You can find Jason online at, follow him on Twitter and Instagram, like love him on Facebook or watch him on YouTube. Or do all of the above…though I wouldn’t do them all at once. You might miss an awesome Mraz Moment.

Pretty sure #MrazMoment should be a new hashtag. Just sayin’.

ps post script

Feel free to “like” is this REALLY my life? on Facebook. It won’t always earn you an extra entry in a giveaway but it will give you warm fuzzies.

Don’t forget to sign up for free is this REALLY my life? updates via RSS or email so you don’t miss a single awesome post.

Tequila lime chopped chicken salad

2014 July 17
by Emily Hill

Disclosure: I was compensated for this post as part of the Whole Foods Ambassador program. All thoughts, opinions and hunger-inducing photos are 100 percent honest and all mine.

If you love a good southwestern salad, this tequila lime chopped chicken salad will quickly become one of your favorites. It features diced tequila lime-marinated chicken breast, corn, black beans, tomato, avocado, shredded cheese and the most delightful spicy avocado ranch dressing inspired by Taste and Tell.

Tequila lime chopped chicken salad

The best thing about this chopped chicken salad is its flexibility—you can mix and match ingredients and change up the dressing. Next time I make it I’m going to try adding pinto beans and jicama and substitute pepper Jack cheese for the Colby-Jack. I may even whip up a batch of Cafe Rio creamy cilantro dressing and top it with crispy tortilla strips!

The true star of this salad is the tequila lime chicken. I used Bill Baron’s Tequila Lime seasoning from Whole Foods and created a marinade for the chicken breasts. After marinating about 3 hours, I threw them on the grill. After about 15 minutes, they were done. And about 15 minutes after that, we’d inhaled all the diced chicken. It’s safe to say it was my family’s favorite marinade to date.

Tequila lime chopped chicken salad

Printable recipe for tequila lime chopped chicken salad below.

Tequila Lime Chopped Chicken Salad with Spicy Avocado Ranch Dressing
Recipe type: Salad
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
The tequila lime chicken is the star of this chopped chicken salad. It's a must as is the avocado ranch dressing, but feel free to mix it up with your favorite southwestern-style ingredients adding as much or as little as you'd like. Avocado ranch dressing adapted from Taste and Tell.
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 to 1½ cups buttermilk
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ⅛ to ¼ cup fresh dill, to taste
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley
  • ⅛ cup fresh chives
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 2 tsp seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 3 to 4 chicken breasts marinated in Bill Baron's Tequila Lime seasoning
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • ½ to 1 avocado, diced
  • ½ can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ can golden sweet yellow corn, drained and rinsed
  • ½ to 1 cup shredded Colby-Jack cheese
  • Chopped lettuce (Romaine, iceberg, or a mix)
  • Tortilla strips, optional
  1. Combine all of ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. For a thinner consistency, add more buttermilk. To adjust the "heat," play with the amount of cayenne pepper. Store in the refrigerator. Makes 3 to 4 cups.
  1. Grill chicken breast over direct medium heat 10 to 12 minutes or until thoroughly cooked and no longer pink. Remove from grill and dice.
  2. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and top with avocado ranch dressing, tossing just before serving (or serving as is). Top with tortilla strips and extra cheese.

ps post script

Feel free to “like” is this REALLY my life? on Facebook. It won’t always earn you an extra entry in a giveaway but it will give you warm fuzzies.

Don’t forget to sign up for free is this REALLY my life? updates via RSS or email so you don’t miss a single awesome post.